Targeting resources to outcomes
The presenter of this workshop, attended by 25 or so governors, was Andree Coleman. She was knowledgeable, having previous experience as a primary school Head and recently as an Ofsted inspector, and was a confident
presenter. The presentation, specifically headed “evaluating the impact of a school’s spending of the pupil premium grant (PPG)”, was informative, and useful guidance was provided. Comments and questions were invited as the presentation took place. The workshop was a very useful contribution to the work of governors on this issue.
The government’s aim for the PPG is to improve educational opportunities for less privileged pupils (as identified by the receipt of Free School Meals) and in this way help improve their attainment and social mobility. The workshop objective was ‘to support governors in evaluating the impact of the spending of pupil premium funding’ and ‘to enable governors to be more effective in evaluating the school’s performance, particularly in relation to disadvantaged pupils’. Andree took us through various ways in which we can do this; and how it can be reported to parents and others via the school website or in other ways, such as the use of templates to identify the funding received and spending made.
It is for each school (staff and governors) to decide how they wish to use the PPG, but they must be able to provide evidence to parents, pupils and Ofsted on how it has been used; and by analysing the data available to then reflect on the success or otherwise of the results, instigating swift changes to practice where necessary. Ofsted has provided a series of self-review questions for governing bodies to examine their knowledge and awareness, and a Teaching & Learning Toolkit has been put together by the Education & Endowment Foundation and The Sutton Trust to assist all those involved in reviewing the use of the PPG.
How to discuss quality of teaching with senior leaders
Led by Frank Norris, this workshop investigated the relationship between teaching, learning and feedback to children and explored the power of enquiry through questions, with a view to compiling a practical bank of ‘real life questions’.
Colleagues were asked to recall when was the last time a teacher had asked the question of pupils about how well they felt they had been taught and we then watched a video in which a group of students were asked questions about what they thought made a good teacher; there was a variety of interesting answers. Next we were asked to talk about what we thought ‘effective teaching’ was and were shown a list of twelve teaching-related questions, with advice on how Ofsted prioritised these. Finally we were asked to think about when we had last looked at our schools’ teaching and learning policy. Frank referred to some useful reading material, the titles and authors of which are to be posted on the Learning Leads website.
The presentation was both stimulating and thought provoking and will have provided governors with a good deal to think about.
Helping governors ask the best questions
The workshop, led by Clive Taylor, was about how governors could ask questions to find out the things they really want to know. It was lively and interactive. Clive emphasised that the important things we want to know are about the quality of teaching and learning in our schools.
He suggested that questions beginning with “what..?” and “how..?” were likely to promote consistent responses. Those beginning with ‘when…”? and “where…?” simply invited short and factual replies. He pointed out that “why…?” questions can be very powerful, but should be asked carefully as they can seem confrontational and may limit the answers given. Governors were given useful food for thought about how to challenge headteachers through their questions, without compromising their task of support.
School to school support: opportunities and challenges
This well-attended workshop was led jointly, by Alan Beswick and Graham Hunt. Its aim, ably fulfilled, was to increase understanding of why school to school support is worthwhile and ever more necessary with diminishing local authority resources available.
It was stressed that, for such support to be successful, both those giving it and those receiving it must feel that they are gaining something from the activity, whether gaining new perspectives on managing learning or enhancing their own skills as mentors and leaders. There are also good pragmatic reasons for working with colleagues in different settings, reducing competitive pressures and encouraging collaborative ventures which often result in efficiency gains and valuable professional development.
The bulk of the workshop focused on a case study of a fictitious school where external support was essential if its problems were to be resolved. Working in groups, participants contributed to a lively discussion and came up with a wide range of possible approaches for consideration.